Clever summer amusement, Royal Pains is turning into one of the season’s biggest new hits. True, you have to accept a pretty outlandish premise, but once you succumb to the series’ charms, it’s not that difficult to get into its sweet comic rhythms. Mark Feuerstein stars as Dr. Hank Lawson, who blows a promising New York City hospital career because he made a judgment call (a rich hospital donor died while he was saving the life of a poorer man), only to find not just a new job but a new lifestyle.
During a stay in the Hamptons, Hank stumbles into the apparently real profession of ”concierge doctor” — medical pros hired by the wealthy to be their on-call providers. The job would stink of obnoxious privilege, except that Hank also has a conscience: He uses the money he makes treating rich clients to do pro bono care for locals who can’t afford health care. ”We treat who needs treatment” is Hank’s motto.
The result is unexpectedly whimsical fun. Feuerstein, who has labored through a bunch of lousy sitcoms including Conrad Bloom and Good Morning, Miami, has finally found a TV vehicle that suits his little crinkly eyes, big pecs, and brainy, chesty talent. His do-good doctor is paired with Hank’s hustler brother, Evan (goofy Paulo Costanzo), a CPA who sees dollar signs and bikini babes in their future if they can monetize Hank’s new medical practice to the max.
You also have to believe that a mega-wealthy German nobleman would give Hank and Evan the run of his castle-like Hamptons estate. This fellow is played by Campbell Scott (Singles) with witty flair and an accent that’s the only subtle thing in this show.
Like its time-period companion Burn Notice, Pains has a sun-bright color palette: Every scene shimmers with baking heat. And you can’t have hot summer escapism without romance, so Pains provides Hank with flirty Jill Casey (flinty Jill Flint), a noble administrator at Hamptons Heritage, a poorly equipped hospital that helps the less fortunate as best it can.
If some of Hank’s instant, accurate diagnoses beggar belief — he sizes up a chef who suffers memory loss after a kitchen quickie with a terse ”Sex can be a trigger for a stroke!” — well, as I say, if you buy the premise of the show, you buy Hank’s quick, easy skills. No one’s ever going to say Royal Pains, with its pun title (although Scott is the only royalty around, most of the upper-class patients prove to be real pains), is a classic addition to the medical genre, but it certainly is zippy fun. B